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Benny Alvarado from Costa Rica
"I needed a method to organize my hives, and keep track of my project. Apiary Book has helped me a lot to organize the to-do tasks, the activity history and the characteristics of each of the hives."
We love to discover each time a new corner of the world, where we find passionate beekeepers who are happy to share their stories with us. Today, we present to you the story Berny Alvardo, from Costa Rica. His “pura vida” is centered around protection and conservation of stingless bees. He considers beekeeping as an opening door towards creating a better future for our nature and ourselves. Only witnessing his answers, we’ve come to the realization that Berny has great plans in store as a beekeeper and he decided to share them with us.
1.Where are you from?
I am from a small town in Costa Rica, called San Marcos de Tarrazú.
2. What do you love most about being a beekeeper?
I love that it's a door that besides providing an economic resource, it also gives a lot of satisfaction because through breeding, bees can protect and regenerate nature.
3. What advice would you give to beekeepers who are beginners? Please share some beekeeping tricks that would help them.
First, it must be something they really love. Second, they must be committed to the bees to provide good care for them.
4. In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges of being a beekeeper in your country or area? (harsh climate, bee decline etc.)
The main challenge of being a beekeeper is the boom in the monoculture of some products such as coffee and pineapple. The agricultural practices handled by people involve the use of a large number of agrochemicals that are harmful to bees, ultimately causing their death, in addition to the proble of uncontrolled deforestation.
5. What are your beekeeping plans for the future?
I plan to produce food and bee products using sustainable and environmentally friendly techniques. Help preserve native stingless bees by restoring their natural habitats.
6. How did you find out about Apiary Book?
I found it when I was looking for apps on Google Play to help me manage my meliponary.
7. Why did start using Apiary Book and how has it helped you?
I needed a method to organize my hives, and keep track of my project. Apiary Book has helped me a lot to organize the to-do tasks, the activity history and the characteristics of each of the hives.
8. Would you recommend the app to other beekeepers and why?
Of course, yes, because it is a very intuitive app and it helps a lot to organize the meliponary.
9. Has Apiary Book improved your beekeeping experience?
Yes, in the administrative part it is an excellent option to have a clear and robust control of all the hives.
10. Please share with us a personal beekeeping story.
Once I was rescuing a colony of stingless bees and I could see how some people who were near the place approached to observe the process. It was something that I really liked because I realized that it is a topic of general interest, and that we must teach the population how to take care of these insects’ habitats.
11. Do you know of any funding options available for beekeepers in your country? How does the government incentivize beekeepers?
Currently the National Institute of Learning (INA) is the only organization that I know that finances a beekeeping project, but the process is a bit cumbersome and difficult. There is a lot of paperwork to do. In Costa Rica it is very difficult for the government to commit to small beekeeping or meliponiculture projects. As I mentioned earlier, the INA is the only government organization that could help a little
Beekeeping in Costa Rica
Simply translated into “Pura Vida”, Costa Rica is well known around the world for its ecological paradise, rich with abundant vegetation and scenic places. It is considered a place intimately connected with the wildlife, luxuriant plants that overflow with life.
Among its diverse species, bees are situated as one of the most essential species for the ecosystem. About 650 species of bees inhabit Costa Rica, out of which 100 species consider Guanacaste’s dry forest to be a perfect habitat.
Melipona honey bee, known as Melipona costarricensis, stands as a crucial member of the ecosystem, belonging to the Costa Rican region for a long time. Sadly, this species is declining mostly due to deforestation practices that threaten its habitat.
“The Rich Coast” of Central America presents two seasons: wet and dry. The wet season begins in mid-April and lasts for about eight months. After that, the dry season approaches in mid-December and makes way for a season full of sun and little precipitation until mid-April. During the dry season, there are some blooming trees beneficial to the honey bees: the Guititi tree, the Apple Water tree, the Mango tree, the Blackwood tree and the Wild Cashew tree.
Unfortunately, all the species of bees in Costa Rica are on the endangered species list. According to reports, bee populations continue to be reduced up to 250,000 dead bees every day, due to the use of agrochemicals.
Costa Rican beekeepers’ associations are aware of all the dangers and have turned their voices towards convincing the Government to ban Fipronil (insecticide) and Trifloxystrobin (fungicide), with the purpose of recovering the bee populations. Their proposal was denied by the government, on the premise that they don’t have scientific proof about the negative effects of the insecticide.
According to the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), more than 1,000 Costa Ricans rely their earnings on harvesting between 30,000 to 35,000 hives. Areas such as Acosta, Los Santos, Puriscal and Guanacaste are among the places where the hives are spread.
Due to deforestation and unsustainable practices, bees are on the verge of dying, and as a result, the supply of honey diminishes. Apart from honey production, bees are the main creators of wax for candles, royal jelly used in cosmetics and pollen for health food.
The National University of Costa Rica declared that 65% of the plants on the planet are in need of pollinators and the most important are bees. Bees are essential for maintaining healthy crops and contribute to the Costa Rican economy, since crops such as coffee, tomatoes, papaya, strawberries, avocado, watermelon, generate $250 million annually.
Costa Rica’s annual honey production is between 600 and 1,000 tons in comparison with its potential of making 5,000 tons per year. This disruption is mainly produced by the lack of government involvement in supporting the beekeeping activity as it does for other agricultural activities. Recently, a law was approved to declare beekeeping a practice of public interest and bees as crucial for the environment, encouraging actions aimed at developing sustainable strategies.
The Small Grants Programme founded by UNDP is focusing its supplies and support on reinforcing the beekeepers' potential in the Jesus Maria and Barranca River, two of the most degraded watersheds in Costa Rica. 24 beekeepers who are in charge of 1,000 bee hives are involved directly with UNDP. This program’s purpose is to teach beekeepers how to harvest honey in a more sustainable way.
Another organization certified by the Rainforest Organization and dedicated to protecting bees and teaching about them in schools, is Api-Agricultura, founded by Carlos Cortes and Liz Paniagua. Their purpose is to rescue and protect the bees from all species in Costa Rica by generating positive impact through educating others. They receive support from volunteers around the world who are interested in learning more about their project.